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Sex and National Security: Insights from the Life Sciences

Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010

While the traditional approach to national security would suggest that there is no linkage between the security of women and the security of states, there is an interesting new wave of research, informed by the life sciences, that is increasingly undermining that assumption. The organization of male-female relations within a society is one of its strongest and most influential characteristics. Where those relations are based on dominance and inequity, that template will affect the state and its security.

Perhaps most interesting is that while the social sciences have been slow to pick up on this, these findings have enjoyed resonance at the policymaking level. Across the political spectrum, this linkage is being articulated at the highest levels. Most recently, in March 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asserted, "The subjugation of women is a direct threat to the security of the United States." President Barack Obama's National Security Strategy also notes, "Experience shows that countries are more peaceful and prosperous when women are accorded full and equal rights and opportunity." In 2004, then-President George W. Bush opined, "The advance of women's rights and the advance of liberty are ultimately inseparable." And in 2006, then-Secretary-General Kofi Annan of the United Nations summed up the matter in this way: "The world is starting to grasp that there is no policy more effective in promoting development, health and education than the empowerment of women and girls. And I would venture that no policy is more important in preventing conflict, or in achieving reconciliation after a conflict has ended." ...

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